© Nobel Media AB. Photo: A. Mahmoud
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2015
Born: 12 July 1935, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan
Affiliation at the time of the award: Kitasato University, Tokyo, Japan
Prize motivation: "for their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites."
Prize share: 1/4
Satoshi Omura was born in Nirasaki, Yamanashi, Japan. He studied at the University of Yamanashi and at the Tokyo University of Science. He holds two doctorates: one in pharmaceutical science from the University of Tokyo from 1968 and one in chemistry from the Tokyo University of Science from 1970. He has then primarily worked at the Kitasato University, Minato, Tokyo, but is also affiliated with Wesleyan University, Middleton, Connecticut, USA.
A number of serious infectious diseases are caused by parasites spread by insects. River blindness is caused by a tiny worm that can infect the cornea and cause blindness. Lymphatic filariasis, or elephantiasis, is also caused by a worm and produces chronic swelling. Satoshi Ōmura cultured bacteria, which produce substances that inhibit the growth of other microorganisms. In 1978 he succeeded in culturing a strain from which William Campbell purified a substance, avermectin, which in a chemically modified form, ivermectin, proved effective against river blindness and elephantiasis.